Step by step on the Family Reunification Program for Colombians and Central Americans
by Nicolas Baintrub www.enlacelatinonc.org
Instead of remaining in their home country while their immigrant visa is processed, beneficiaries will be able to wait in the United States with their family members.
On Friday, July 7, the Biden administration announced the process to apply for a new family reunification program for Colombians, Salvadorans, Guatemalans, and Hondurans who have relatives in the United States.
The new process will allow beneficiaries to travel to their family in the United States while they wait until they are granted permanent residency. And this is precisely the key to understanding the benefits of the program: the process of granting visas is not intended to become faster, but it allows people to wait that time with their family, together.
Prior to this initiative, petitions for foreign family members of U.S. citizens or permanent residents to travel to the US as immigrants would take years. This left families separated for prolonged periods, and this new program aims to correct that with this initiative of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
The waiting permit in the United States will be granted for periods of up to 3 years. These are periods that can be renewed, and during which the beneficiaries will have the possibility to apply for work permits.
What are the requirements? To become beneficiaries of the new family reunification program, individuals must come from Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, or Honduras.
In addition, they must be relatives of a U.S. citizen or legal resident. For a lawful permanent resident, the beneficiary must be a spouse and/or unmarried child under the age of 21. For U.S. citizens, the beneficiary must be a spouse, child – regardless of age – or sibling. To this degree of kinship, two fundamental requirements are added to qualify for the family reunification program. The first is that the beneficiary cannot be present in the United States. And the second is to have a Form I-130 Petition for Alien Relative already approved.
In summary, the first requirements to meet are for a relative to: 1. Be outside of the United States. 2. Be the principal beneficiary (or derivative beneficiary spouse or child) of an approved Form I-130 Petition for Alien Relative. 3. Be a national of Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala or Honduras.
Once these requirements are met, the petitioner should receive an invitation to begin the family reunification process. This invitation is sent at the discretion of the immigration authorities. It consists of Form I-134A, where the petitioner agrees to become the support person for their relative. When this invitation is received, Form I-134A must be completed. It will then have to be approved by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS.) At this point, it is essential that the petitioner has a valid passport to be able to make international trips. Step by step for the family reunification program of Colombians and Central Americans The process of obtaining a travel permit to the United States for family reunification involves several steps. All of them are carried out virtually, until the process is almost finished, when a last face-to-face interview by an immigration agent at the US port of entry takes place.
Step 1: Petitioner Invitation To understand the process, you must first know who is understood as a “petitioner” and who as a “beneficiary.” A petitioner is a citizen or lawful permanent resident of the United States who applies for family reunification with a relative living outside the country. The “beneficiary,” meanwhile, is the person who lives outside the United States and wishes to immigrate. The family reunification invitation will only be sent to petitioners who already have an approved Form I-130 on behalf of the beneficiaries. As we explained above, the decision whether to send the invitation is made by USCIS and is based on discretionary factors. Those factors may include considerations of operational capacity, and/or the expected length of time until the beneficiary’s immigrant visa becomes available. The invitation will instruct the petitioner on the steps to take to initiate this process on behalf of their beneficiary. That includes instructions on what documentation to include on your Form I-134A.
Step 2: The petitioner completes an online Form I-134A After receiving an invitation, the petitioner – whether a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident – must complete a Form I-134A for each beneficiary through the web portal, my USCIS.
Step 3: The beneficiary provides information electronically to support the order At this point, the beneficiary – that is, the person living abroad and wishing to join their family member in the United States – must receive confirmation of the approved Form I-134A. Specifically, the beneficiary named on Form I-134A will receive an email from USCIS with instructions on how to create an online account with myUSCIS. In addition, they will need to confirm biographical information and attest that they meet the eligibility requirements.
Step 4: The beneficiary submits the application in the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) online application After confirming biographical information in myUSCIS and completing the required certificates of eligibility, the beneficiary will receive instructions through myUSCIS to access the CBP mobile app. At which point, they provide additional information and a photograph.
Step 5: Approval for travel to the United States If the beneficiary meets all the above requirements and steps, they may receive authorization to travel to the United States. This travel approval does not guarantee that the beneficiary will obtain the family reunification permit. That will only be determined during an inspection at the port of entry, upon arriving in the US.
Step 6: The beneficiary asks for permission at the port of entry Customs and Border Protection will inspect each beneficiary who arrives at a port of entry. There, it will consider each individual, on a case-by-case basis, for the granting of a family reunification permit.
Step 7: Permission If entry is granted, it will usually be valid for 3 years. That term is renewable and allows the beneficiary to apply for a permit to work in the United States. Finally, when an immigrant visa becomes available, they will be able to apply for lawful permanent residence.
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